Sunday, October 30, 2011

#0. The Adventure Begins

Scrap 'n Screwdriver Missions is a guide
for mature adults to reach out to teens
in a 'Lead From Behind' mode.

While we spend some time turning scrap
into missionary kits, we're really about
building a bridge of compassion and 
understanding to lead hurting confused
teens to Heaven's FULL JOY.

These resources are provided for your use and allow for no blame, for any reason, to be directed toward Work.Space Programming, their authors, or the facility that stores and shares these resources.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

#1. Achin' For Teens

My heart aches for teens.
I'll say it again.
My heart aches for teens.

As a 70+ grandfather topped with silver hair and always with my cane, (and emergency cell phone) I have pain that goes deeper than my arthritis and other body pain. When my thoughts focus on teens today, my inward pain overshadows my body's cries for attention.

In unmistakable ways, bodily pain and spiritual pain clammer for my attention and action. But which do I attend first? And does that remedy require pills or a process, or maybe a person?

From the lips of others, and sometimes me too, the labored questions come:
“God are you doing this to me? 
How long is this pain going to last? 
Do you enjoy allowing pain in people? 
Have I done something to make you angry? 
Why do Christians that faithfully love and serve You, suffer pain and imprisoning in unspeakable conditions? 
Why God?”

I want to reach out to teens.
I know that I don't know.
I don't know all the reasons why teens act in such extreme ways that sometimes scare me and my family. I picture the range of youth struggling with pain rather like an iceberg. By far, the largest part of an iceberg is under the surface and not noticed at first glance.

This I do know. God has placed an ongoing burden; a present daily heartache that moves me to sharing God's love and bone-deep comfort with youth all around me.

It'd be so easy for me to turn my silver-topped head the other way and pretend life for teens is unfixable, except for a group of verses that tell me (and you) how to achieve, not joy, but FULL JOY. One of the attributes of this FULL JOY is that it surpasses our ability to describe it with words. Does this sound too good to be real? It's right in black and white, that God led Peter to record for us... 1Peter 1:8.
Let's learn of that teen world and how God will enable us to build a strong bridge from Teenage Pain to Full Joy Unspeakable.

Friday, October 21, 2011

#2. The Blaster

The warning – in a minute.

Seeing as how we as silver-haired seniors are learning about teenagers and how to reach out to them, we must, with caution, include here the lesson we learned from the Blaster.
As car doors were closing, members and friends of the Silver-Top Seniors group were entering the activity center and whispering warnings along the way. The warnings were all variations of, “Be on your guard tonight. 'Blaster' Jackson is leading our fellowship tonight.”
No one really knew what Blaster's real first name was, nor did they have any courage to ask. Blaster got his nickname in the coal mines, he worked in most of his life. He was the person that always set off the dynamite charges.

The way Blaster talked loud and sometimes with a bit of confusion, you'd ask yourself if Blaster had been standing too close to his work, a few times. Entering the activity room the first thing to be seen was a long folding table with full coffee makers and a bowl of tea bags sitting near a large thermos of hot water. They were all lined up ready for action, like rifles and hand grenades along the wall of an army barracks.

The same muffled warnings were still being shared as the 40 or so, men and women took their seats; three were in wheel chairs. One thing was crystal clear in the minds of everyone, was the war these silver-haired soldiers (for the Savior) have declared, to recapture the minds and hearts of the youth of the community, especially the teenagers.

When the announcements, thank-you's, and other customary preliminaries were finished, Blaster Jackson stood straight and tall. His frayed shirt sleeve almost covered the 3-inch scar on his left wrist. Peeking just over his shirt collar was a neck tattoo that said, “MOM.” An unkind rumor started at the barber shop a couple years ago that the rest of the tattoo probably said, “MOM loves me, 'cuz no one else will.” It's just a rumor, you understand.

The room got quiet as a graveyard as Blaster walked up to one of the men at a front table. In a stern tone, Blaster asked him, “Whad you want?” Without time to answer, Blaster asked again, “You came here tonight, whad you want?” Again, not waiting for an answer, his eyes beneath large bristly black eyebrows looked toward Donna Benning. Without a word, Blaster's eyes asked Donna the question with such force she almost dropped her coffee cup.

He returned to the front of the room and lightly tapped the table he stood next to, a few times, thinking of his next words. In a softer look and tone, he scanned the faces of all his audience, beginning with, “Whaddah we want? Everyplace we go, whether it's into the kitchen, the hardware store, doctor, or even here tonight. We know what we want. We mostly know where to get it, and even why.”

With more gentleness than you'd expect possible from Blaster, he slowly walked among the tables as he spoke to everyone, often repeating the question, “Whaddah we want?” “Oftentimes I'd be working in the mine tunnels so dark; so black, you'd think God's eyes couldn't see me, down there. But you and I know He did, and He does, every moment. Can you imagine darkness so intense, you can almost taste it, with your tongue?” 
I can still remember once, in shaft #14, it was black like that. The battery on my cap lamp was just about gone. I was all alone. I pushed the plunger to set off the blast, but realized I didn't know which way to run. I didn't know where my safe spot was. Maybe you've had a moment, when you didn't know where to run for safety; or even if there was such a safety place for you. Isn't it wonderful to have friends and loved-ones we can run to, that lovingly tell you, “Come follow me. I'll show you perfect safety.”

With muscled arms and large calloused fingers, Blaster pointed at the double entry doors and said, “Those teenagers out there will be our leaders tomorrow. They'll be making decisions that'll affect you and me.” Blaster Jackson tapped a nearby table a few more times, giving serious thought to his next few words. His gaze covered all the faces present and began, “With a nickname like 'Blaster', you'd think I'm tough and cold about everything. But it ain't so.”

This last week, I took a teen boy for cokes, and I'll never NEVER forget what I saw across the table from me. I looked into the eyes of a teen that were as dark and confused and distressed as anything I've ever seen in shaft 14 or any of um! Just like many of you, I've got Arthritis that pains me somethin' terrible." 

"But people, what pains me even more is there are so very few grownups that care enough about teenagers around us, willing to take the first steps to tell a teen, 'Come follow me. I'll show you perfect safety.' It makes things even blacker to think that church folks CHURCH FOLKS don't know how or don't care to reach out with God's light of truth and peace.”

[more from Blaster next time.]

Thursday, October 20, 2011

#3. You Silver-Tops Are Perfect!

With every pair of eyes of the Silver-Top Seniors group focused on Blaster Jackson, his continuing words poured from a tender heart. His burden for reaching out to teenagers with God's promise of peace and purpose in these chaotic technology-flooded times caught everyone off guard. The mood of the room of 40 or so people forced open the hearts of Blaster's listeners and began inner cries to join his cause.

Now I know what cher thinkin'. You're sayin' to yourself, I don't know much about today's teens. Most of the time I get edgy just being around them for very long. I think of them as a blood-pumping time bomb, and I wouldn't know what to do or what not to say. I don't know a bunch of Bible verses to show the teen. I once heard that some of them can't read and probably can't write their own name.”

Blaster continued his speaking with, “Now if that theres what yer thinkin', you're perfect for the job.” For emphasis, Blaster lightly clapped his hands together twice. “Do you see, we're a perfect match! The teens don't have to answer some kind of interrogation from us, or listen to any rules. All they need to do is slowly share with us, what their world is like. Do we need to be ready with lots of Bible verses we figure only a preacher would know? Absolutely not! We only need to listen with compassion.”

Someone clapped their hands a few times and then spoke up, in halting words. Beulah Radner said, “Mr. Blaster. I can't do much in this wheelchair, but I sure can listen! Can I help ya listen? Can I help ya with the teens? I want God to use me, in whatever way He can. Would ja let me help? I'll try my best, honest I will.”

History books record stacks of powerful speeches and catchy phrases, but Beulah Radner's words most certainly must rank up there with the best: “I want God to use me, in whatever way He can. Would ja let me help? I'll try my best, honest I will.”

Blaster Jackson nodded to the group's chairman, Bob Tarpin, and took his seat. Bob stood to his feet and was so moved by what had been said and done, he took a drink of water and cleared his throat twice, before speaking. His beginning words held great praise for Blaster's presentation and even Beulah's offer to help.

Bob began, “Maybe there's some real truth to the 'God gave us two ears but only one mouth – because He wanted us to do twice as much listening', rule of thumb. Certainly, God wants us to be super zealous in our listening, not only to those He has put in our field of harvest, but firstly to Him and the beats of His heart, often recorded in His written word.”

Before we have our closing prayer, I want you to try something. When you get home and prepare for bed, read some scripture, maybe a whole chapter. Then by yourself, pray with Beulah's thoughts: I want God to use me, in whatever way He can. Would ja let me help? I'll try my best, honest I will.' Then spend some quiet time in your prayer, and practice your listening... listening as Heaven leads you in seeing your part to play in all that we've been reminded about, tonight.”

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

#4. Plate Pluggin' 'n Shoo-Fly Pie

It was going to be a battle they had fought before, with not very good results. The two white-headed World War II veterans arrived at Mark Bond's house with their favorite fishing rods in the back seat. Both men questioned each other about what a Shoo-Fly pie was like, and was it something humans would want to eat. Mark happily greeted, “Howdy fellas! I sure hope you remembered your fishing rods. I'm gonna whop both of you good!”

The two men took a seat on the porch while hearing Mark's warning not to trip over his two canes leaning over against the porch railing. As was expected, Pete spoke right up with all the particulars of the birth of his fourth new grand-baby. Mark and Bates could tell Pete was as excited about the event as he was about the first one. And trying to put the skids to Pete's revelation would be about as hard as storming the beach at Guadalcanal with bombs exploding all around you.

Shortly the conversation turned to the events at the recent Silver-Tops Seniors fellowship, last week. With a bit of a struggle, Mark changed his posture in the porch swing. Bates asked, “Mark, is that grenade fragment giving you problems again?” The answer came, “Ya. The army surgeons said it was too close to my spine and that it'd have to stay put. They warned that I'd have occasional pain with it, the rest of my life.”

Mark continued, “That talk that Blaster Jackson gave at 'Silver-Tops' really spoke to me. Like most of the rest of the audience, I was really touched by his tenderness about the teens. I didn't think he had deep feelings, like that; about anything.” Mumbled agreement came from both Pete and Bates. Mark continued, while rubbing his chin in a thoughtful way.

But what I really connected with, was Blaster's thoughts about the two kinds of pain. You remember – his physical pain – his Arthritis. And then, his mental pain – seeing the stress and confusion in the life of the teen he had cokes with. A buddy of mine had a pump implanted under his skin to feed medicine when his back pain got so bad. Scientists have come up with all kinds of wonderful medicines and technology to help control our physical pain. But they're stopped cold trying to find something that will deal with that deeper pain; the mental pain within our spirit.”

Bates was never a real talkative person, but spoke up. “Guys. I've started building a teenage boy – on paper, that is. It always helps me to write things down and move my thoughts around – get them sort-of lined up. I can think about things more clearly and pray better too. I've printed out the list I'm beginning and here's a copy for each of you.” All three men were looking at their copy of the list. “I want both of you to tell me stuff that could probably be added, to help build 'our teenage boy'; on paper, that is.”

The beginning list already included statements like, “1. unlike girls, boys enjoy loud, messy, flashy outside events, especially if a contest or food is involved. 2. boys are far more independent and want to establish their own rules, rather than being controlled by teachers, parents, and other authorities. 3. fashion and first impressions are rarely close to the top of a boy's to-do list. 4. boys have begun the lifelong battle to try to understand the reasons for the actions of those other soft-speaking teens that wear frilly dresses, and matching ribbons in their hair.”

Pete suggested another teen boy note: “teen boys are often seen playing hand-held video games. And I'm thinking the ever-present gaming may be cover-ups for painful family circumstances or the absence of a true friend that deeply cares about the boy's hurts – physical or especially mental/spiritual.”

The men grabbed their fishing rods and headed for the backyard battle, still wondering what a Shoo-Fly Pie was.

Each of the trio was seated in a chair, facing an aluminum pie plate about 30 feet in front of them. As directed by yesterday's phone call invitation, a casting plug was attached where a fish hook was usually found. The obvious task was to carefully cast your plug into the pie plate, without getting it tangled in the low-hanging tree limbs. Mark explained, “The first one who mistakenly gets tangled in the tree limb, has to be the first to taste my Dixie's Shoo-Fly Pie. You both already know that she likes to experiment with new pie recipes, and this one, I have some real questions about.”

The first taster of Dixie's new creation, we'll learn about later. A Shoo-Fly pie is made with sweet crumbs and molasses. Evidently the flies love 'em.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

#5. I'm a C.B. MAX

The next hour would change Blaster's life forever.

Blaster's grizzly calloused hand motioned for Max to take a seat on the grass and both leaned up against the perfect shade tree. Blaster came just to listen. There'd be no spouting rules or accusations of stupid choices... he'd just listen.

Max was all of 16, and headed down a road to the rocks, very much out of control, emotionally. Before Max spoke, he breathed out a long deep sigh. He felt his exhaled distress could make a difference to that sailboat smoothly gliding among the sparkling diamonds of reflected sunlight. He popped the tab on his coke, as did Blaster. Both begged themselves for the right things to say, and when to keep silent.

Blaster, this sure is relaxing. Thanks for caring enough to bring me. I'm sure you got more important things to do, but I sure needed this. It seems like this growin' up gets tougher for me every week.” Max looked at the silver-haired Blaster with an expression that silently said, “Help me Mr. B. I'm drowning and I don't know where shore is, or who to ask. I mean, the way I've acted, I know for certain God sure isn't going to listen to me! That's why I'm so glad you do.”

Mom and dad are so stressed, they can't say 5 words without shouting at each other. Their shouting even splatters over onto me, if I'm around or can hear them.” Max took a drink of pop and rested it on the grass, making sure no ants were around.

Mom told me once about the puppets they had before television came along. These puppets had strings connected to them and a person up above would pull different puppet strings and make it dance, lay down, move its mouth, or shake its head. Mr. B. I don't know if you can understand it, but there are many times I wished I could put mom and dad on those strings. Oh how I wished I could pull some strings and make them dance with each other, smile, and walk hand in hand.” Max looked into Blaster's eyes and wanted to find those strings to make his home much easier for a teenager to find his way into adulthood.

Mr. B. I'm a C.B... Well, I used to be a C.B. I'll explain in a minute what a C.B. is. Last year in school, I met a guy that told me how I could have some fantastic fun with my computer on the Internet, and it wouldn't cost anything. You need to be able to talk to other people in Facebook. You know... send short messages. Well, I learned about a girl in my school that was on Facebook a whole lot.”

I'll keep this story short. I began sending funny rumors to her group of friends in Facebook and I could start making a difference in her attitude. See, this can all be done, anonymously... fake names, and all that. Anyhow, I'd see her in the hallways and some classes and tell I was really stirring her up. It started out just as a game. I wanted to see if it really worked like this guy said it would.” Blaster and Max took another drink of pop and glanced at the progress of the sailboat, with its tall proud white sail.

But Mr. B. I don't know exactly what made me do it, maybe it was all the stress at home, but I began sending mean rumors about her to her Facebook friends, that she would also see. I'd sit at my laptop in my bedroom and visualize her squirming like I do every minute I'm at home. This girl couldn't tell her parents that a Cyber Bully was taring her life apart. Because the minute she did, her parents would take her cell phone away and clamp down on her computing. She couldn't stay away from Facebook social networking 'cuz that was about the only friends she had.”

Now, Blaster. You may not understand this, but I was feeling a little like a god. Because as a C.B., a cyberbully, I could control someone, like I wished I could control my bickering parents.”

Max took another long deep breath and rotated to face Blaster, straight on. “Mr. B. This has got way out of hand. The girl began loosing weight and looked like she didn't sleep 2 hours a week. After a while, I didn't see her at school, anymore. I'm tellin' ya. I feel so guilty; so dirty in what I've done. It's like the pain and stress that I saw in my parents, and that I spilled onto that girl, in Facebook, has rebounded back at me in full force.”

Blaster. I want to ask a big favor of you. I want you to talk to your silver-haired friends and warn them about Cyberbullying and to try so much harder to make connections with the tender-hearted girls struggling with growing up, AND the terrible danger that can be done by playing around someone's feelings in Facebook, or anywhere else. But it's super important that you don't use my name, in what you teach them. OK?”

Blaster Jackson was so overcome with compassion, two large arms that so often carried cases of dynamite into the coal mines, reach out and wrapped around the 16 year old young man. It seemed like an eternity before they both settled back against the tree, enjoying the cool fresh breeze, somehow feeling a load; an inside load, had been lifted to the surface of sharing.

Like a magnet, the tall white sail drew the stare of both Max and Blaster. Blaster spoke in a gentle tone, “Isn't it great that God made that sailboat do what it was designed to do? I mean, it floats on top of the water, and at the same time is powered by the breeze. Max, you and I can't see the breeze, but we both know it's there, don't we? Well, there are many things God has given us, too wonderful for us to see. Let's start opening our eyes – our heart-eyes, travel a little slower – like that sailboat, and we'll both notice other good stuff God has for us.”

Sunday, October 16, 2011

#6. Isn't Worth Nothin'

The annoying phone rang for the third time in the last hour. Hattie was at the grocery store, so Blaster Jackson (her husband) was stuck with answering the thing. If it wasn't for the hip problems Hattie has been having lately, he'd think seriously about unplugging the noisy phone for most of each day. This time he was glad he answered it, and with just a twinge of courtesy too.

The phone receiver said, “Hi Mr. B. This is Max. You know Max Litton. How you doin'?” “Not too bad, Max. This stormy weather coming in, is sure stirring up my aching bones. But... I guess it's better than never having any pain at all.” Blaster's statement wasn't meant to be a hook, but that's exactly what it did. “Well, how you getting along, young man? And I want to really know. You've been on my mind a whole lot since we had cokes at the lake. I wasn't going to say anything, but I think some tree ants took a shortcut down through my shirt.”

The reason I called, Mr. B, is to tell you how so very much I treasure our time together in your busy schedule. It means a whole lot that you listen to my hurts and don't jump on me for all the stupid choices I've made before. Well, anyhow, I was wonderin' if I could sort-of pay you back by picking up sticks in your yard, or something that'd save you from having to bend over a lot. I could come anytime... anytime I'm not in school.”

Blaster's mind raced to find the answer to the question immediately shouting to his soul. The simple question is why is this troubled teen, full of pain in his spirit and soul, caring about my aching back muscles? Is pain (in any form) some kind of magnet that draws two quite different generations together? Is there some kind of two-way compassion going on. Is pain some kind of language that needs no alphabet or polished grammar?

Almost without testing the thought, Mr. B. asked the 16 yr old Max. “Max. I was just wondering. Some of us older people are taring apart old computers and using the parts to make teaching toolkits for missionaries. And we've got 32 old computers that need to be taken apart. Maybe, if you were free next Saturday, you'd like to help us. I'd provide the transportation, and I'll bet I could find a pizza that needs our taste test. How about it?”

Sounds fantastic!” was the reply in the phone receiver. The silver-haired coal mine blaster felt like it was his birthday, and he was about to open the biggest best present of them all. Little did he realize that orange hair was to be part of that present.

Saturday morning promised to be a bright sun-shiny day. Blaster Jackson was just finishing loading some needed tools in Nothin'. Around the garage rode Max Litton, pulled to a stop and almost dropped his bike. But right behind him was another boy in his middle teens, with orange hair the color of beautiful Autumn leaves.

Mr. B. When I started telling Duke here, about how great I feel when you listen to me, he said right away, he wanted to come along, and just maybe, you'd let him help us with the computer trash.” Blaster didn't know how this was going to wind up, but said, “Great. Get your bikes loaded into Nothin' then we'll be about ready to leave. I'll be able to drop you both off at your homes when we're done.”

Duke always suspected old folks were a little strange – even more than his orange hair, but he asked anyway. “Mr. Jackson, ummm. How do we load our bikes in nothin'?” Blaster smiled at the boy's confusion. “Well, Duke. First off, I'd really prefer you call me Gramps. Second, I named my pickup truck, Nothin'. My wife Hattie always tells me, that ol' rattlin' bucket of rust, isn't worth nothin'. So I decided that's what I'll call it, Nothin'.”

If Gramps could have read the minds of the two teens, he'd hear them thinking they ought to call themselves, Nothin'; I'm a teen not worth nothin'. I'm just a bucket of painful stress not knowing where I'm headed. Duke wondered if God, wherever He is, cares anything about orange hair. Maybe when He looks down from heaven, His gaze doesn't get past my orange hair... 'cuz that's sure what people do.